Mag­ic Words

  • Review
By – April 16, 2012
In his nov­el Mag­ic Words, Ger­ald Kol­pan of WNPR’S All Things Con­sid­ered” takes the read­er on a col­or­ful jour­ney back into the post-Civ­il War Amer­i­can West. Kolpan’s hero, Julius, an Ortho­dox Jew­ish youth from Rus­sia, is cap­tured by the Pon­ca Indi­ans, becomes their inter­preter, and falls in love with their princess. When the Army forces the tribe to relo­cate, their trag­ic march on foot gives con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can read­ers a shame­ful his­to­ry les­son.

Woven into these whole­some and instruc­tive pages is a digres­sion relat­ed to the title which changes the book into adult-only enter­tain­ment. Julius’s cousins from Europe are magi­cians who per­form with wild the­atri­cal­i­ty and the help, to quote the cov­er, of a mur­der­ous har­lot.”

Some scenes involv­ing the magi­cians and their fol­low­ers include seduc­tions, bloody attacks, kid­nap­pings, drug­gings, pass­port forgery, and black­mail. Still, it is inter­est­ing to learn how the illu­sion of mag­ic is cre­at­ed, and the nar­ra­tive has a com­pelling pace.

For those who are not turned off by, or maybe enjoy high-volt­age pas­sages, Mag­ic Words is good leisure read­ing.

An Epi­logue tells us that most of the char­ac­ters were real peo­ple, Julius became a promi­nent Jew­ish phil­an­thropist, but one magi­cian nev­er did the evil things attrib­uted to him in the book, and what else is made up isn’t clear. Acknowl­edge­ments, epi­logue.

Read Ger­ald’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Jane Waller­stein worked in pub­lic rela­tions for many years. She is the author of Voic­es from the Pater­son Silk Mills and co-author of a nation­al crim­i­nal jus­tice study of parole for Rut­gers University.

Discussion Questions